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First Presidency asks area presidencies to determine local mask policies, says masks should continue to be worn in temples

Wearing masks, Sabrina and Bryce Taylor arrive at the Draper Utah Temple on Sept. 21, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attends a collection drive for homemade clinical masks at the Deseret Industries in Ogden as part of the ProjectProtect initiative by Latter-day Saint Charities and local health care networks on Saturday, April 25, 2020. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Face mask kits ready for pickup in Utah as part of the COVID-19 relief effort. Latter-day Saint Charities partnered with Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health to help sew 5 million clinical face masks to be donated to health care workers. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Warehouse workers load supplies as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints send aid to China in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Respirator masks, protective googles and protective suits were sent. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

As governments begin to modify the requirements for travel, masks and other protective measures as part of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked local leaders to determine necessary precautions.

“We are grateful that the Lord has heard the prayers of so many and provided the direction that has allowed us to navigate the global COVID-19 pandemic, which, in some areas of the world, continues,” wrote President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, in a letter sent to Church leaders worldwide on Feb. 18.

They are encouraging area presidencies, in consultation with stake presidencies, to determine on a local basis whether masks should be worn or other precautions should be observed in various Church meetings and activities. “In doing so, local leaders should consider the guidance of local health and government officials and local customs and conditions,” they wrote.

For the time being, masks will still be required in temples, “where so many who attend are part of an elderly, more vulnerable, population and where our desire is to keep temples open and to have as many as possible participate,” according to the letter.

“We thank you for your faithfulness in handling the counsel provided by Church leaders and pray the Lord’s continued blessings upon you.”

Initially released in English, the letter will soon be available in dozens of languages.

Timeline: How the Church has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic

Since the earliest days of the pandemic, the First Presidency has encouraged the use of masks as one form of protection.

In January 2020, President Nelson sent protective equipment — including masks — to China.

Warehouse workers load supplies as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints send aid to China in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Respirator masks, protective goggles and protective suits were sent.
Warehouse workers load supplies as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sends aid to China, in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Respirator masks, protective goggles and protective suits were sent. | Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“These are our dear brothers and sisters,” said President Nelson. “We feel privileged to be able to offer some small measure of help. We pray for them, and know God will bless them.”

As the pandemic accelerated, more than 57,000 individuals, including tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints, joined Utah’s ProjectProtect efforts and sewed nearly 6 million masks for health care workers.

“It has been heartwarming and somewhat amazing to see the dedication of the volunteers who have showed up, week after week, to cheerfully pick up the kits and then tearfully — and gratefully — deliver the finished masks,” said Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham. “I’ve seen mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends and neighbors, old and young, rally around this cause.”

A year later, in August 2021, as numbers of COVID-19 cases continued to rise globally, the First Presidency urged Church members to use face masks in public meetings.

Face mask kits ready for pickup in Utah as part of the COVID-19 relief effort. Latter-day Saint Charities partnered with Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health to help sew 5 million clinical face masks to be donated to health care workers.
Face mask kits ready for pickup in Utah as part of the COVID-19 relief effort. Latter-day Saint Charities partnered with Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health to help sew 5 million clinical face masks to be donated to health care workers. | Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“We find ourselves fighting a war against the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants, an unrelenting pandemic…,” they wrote in a letter dated Aug. 12. “To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible.”

A few weeks later, in a letter dated Sept. 22, 2021, the First Presidency directed the use of face masks in temples. “Please do all you can to protect yourself and others so the work of the Lord on both sides of the veil can move forward,” the First Presidency wrote.

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